Our family’s oldest dog died this weekend. That’s him in the picture. He was an elderly 14, pretty darn old for a Collie / Shepherd mix.
Bradley was a shelter dog, who managed to lead a charmed life. Skin and bones, my wife saw him in the shelter during the second Clinton administration, but decided to come back the following Monday.
Through karma, the dog managed to live long past the time when others are euthanized. We knew Bradley’s hearing and vision were starting to slide, but the vet remained cheerfully optimistic. Safely nestled in middle age, my hearing and vision had changed too, but no one was suggesting my quality of life was too poor.
Then hip and joint problems surfaced, again, mirroring my own, but there were some things we could do to make him comfortable. Consider the activity the equivalent of aspirin therapy, some bifocals and arthritis.
This small business provided medical care for our five animals, a costly expense, but one we willingly took on even when problems a week ago caused the bills to skyrocket. A good indicator that a bill is a lot of money is when you transfer money to your checking account.
The final day was Friday. Loyal and true to the end, but unable to walk at all now, we rushed him to the vet, who confirmed what we knew. He was more than 5 pounds lighter than when we had an amazing amount of care a week before. We made the painful choice for us that helped free him from his pain.
Settling accounts, the receptionist looked at her screen and then called her manager over. Some whispered conversations, the manager pushing a few buttons and the total invoice for holiday weekend emergency care, IVs and medicines and the final euthanasia was less than most of our regular office visits.
This small business knew what was going on with a good customer and made some educated guesses about the situation. The receptionist practically apologized saying that they had to pay another company. My guess is we were charged the smallest amount possible plus a straight pass through of the other company’s costs.
The business couldn’t change the situation, but they could reduce the financial burden to almost nothing. Their decision was recognition that we were good customers doing a distasteful, very emotional thing, and they would at least chop their profit or some significant chunk of the revenue from the transaction.
We try to be sensitive to Silver Beacon’s clients and issue more credits and discounts than our accountant thinks is wise, but we have the same empathy for long-term clients. Short-term clients get a fair deal and good terms. For long-term clients, though, we’ve carried their receivables while fronting their advertising costs and waited far too long for payment. For others, we simply have noted the billable hours and issued a credit in times of distress.
Every business, small or otherwise, should be paid a fair rate for their work, but the smart small business takes care of long-term clients with discounts too big to ignore when necessary. Only you as a small businessperson can know when that time occurs, but when it does, take a lesson from my vet and invoice accordingly. You may find that the empathy you extend through your invoice wins you unswerving loyalty.